Trekking, Slacking, Climbing, and Swimming Through Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand

coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
edited April 2, 2014 in Journeys
At this point I calculate that I've spent nine and a half months of my life traveling southeast Asia. This is longer than some people spend in the womb, and I will admit my travels have certainly shaped my life in some ways. This time we left home in early March with myself, my wife Tracy, and our friend Aurora, and after a whirlwind couple of weeks followed by another not so whirlish, but distinctly lacking in good bandwidth, I now find myself soaking up some air-con in central Thailand, and finally ready to tell you all about it!

This trip has been an interesting one for me photographically, and it's not the photos I've taken that make it so. This time it's the photos I'm passing up. I reach out and touch monkeys in the jungle; I walk past shocking examples of poverty in bustling urban environments; I cruise the gentle waves of the Andaman Sea in a wooden boat; I pack a tuk-tuk to its maximum capacity and take a ride across town - and in all of these situations my circumstances seem so ordinary to me that I am uninspired to even point the camera and click a shot just for records sake. It's a bit depressing really. I've seen a lot of cool things this trip that I know my friends would love to share, and I have not photographed it all.

But I have photographed a few things, and those things I will share with the world. :D

Our trip began several days after we left home, as we arrived in Medan, Indonesia. We selected Medan because it had an airport we could reach cheaply and it was on the island of Sumatra, which we'd been told we should visit. Descriptions of this city from two separate sources - one written and one verbal from friends we met - both included the words "worst place I've ever been", but we really didn't have that experience. Stories of hassles by locals even including derogatory sexual gestures and physical shoving matches did not happen to us, and in fact as we wandered the streets well after dark with our backpacks towering over us looking for a hostel to sleep in for the night, we encountered nothing but smiling faces and friendly directions. The city is dirty and unremarkable, yes, but we enjoyed it, for what we saw of it.

Taking a day to recover from our air travel we toured a mosque. I feel like being from America has naturally given us a bit of a hole in our education regarding foreign belief systems, and especially Islam, so this was pretty cool for me. Our guide walked us through the building and explained quite a bit to us, and answered all our questions as best he could. And while I don't think this mosque is any phenomenal representation of Islamic architecture, it was nonetheless fairly impressive.

The following day we were up early and off to Bukit Lawang. This is a small village next to a wildlife refuge that also is home to an orangutan rehabilitation center. We didn't tour the center, but I gather that these people get orangutans from captivity one way or another, and then gradually reintroduce them into the wild jungle over the period of several years, teaching them how to survive on their own in ways these animals never had an opportunity to learn in captivity. A short three-hour drive found us uniting with our guide and embarking on a two-day trek through the jungle, which began at the edge of civilization in what is fittingly a rubber plantation. These trees are sliced diagonally and drip their sap into small containers, which are collected each morning, and the trees sliced again for a fresh drip.

Wandering toward the edge of the natural jungle, I am reminded and awed by the myriad assortment of life that resides in the few places like this that still exist. Tracy read a statistic that Indonesia alone has more types of plant life in it naturally than the whole continent of Africa. Here's a fern very nearly large enough to transpose its curl directly to a fiddle with no change in size.

Because of the daily groups of tourists trekking through this jungle and the rehabilitated nature of some of the wildlife here, I feel the animals are very adjusted to human presence. As we entered the jungle proper we encountered this monkey sitting nonchalantly along the trailside, allowing itself to be photographed by another group. Our guide called this and several other monkey breeds macaques, but since there's so many versions of those on the internet, I'm afraid that's the best I can do for telling you what it is exactly.

Of course monkeys are cool, and Aurora had never seen one before, but what we were really here for was the orangutans. This jungle sanctuary near Bukit Lawang is one of two places in the world where wild orangutans exist anymore, their habitat having been destroyed over the years in favor of much more profitable rubber tree and palm oil plantations. They used to live everywhere in this section of the world. Our guide was very experienced at seeking out the animals we were looking for, and within the first hour of our trek we came upon one of the rehabilitated orangutans, a mother with a baby.

Because these orangutans are so familiar with human interaction, it was easy to stand around and photograph her while she hung around and pondered us. I should mention that there are completely wild orangutans around in these jungles as well, but they don't hang around where people are present, and therefore are seldom even glimpsed by tour groups. The reintroduced ones all have names and our guide tells us he can recognize them all by their faces, just like he would a human. Watching these animals moving around in the trees is really amazing, their legs being just another set of arms that can seemingly move in any direction with equal ease.

This particular orangutan, and in fact all but one of the others we encountered, was very mellow and content to just stare at us while we stared back at her.

The little one was also very cool to watch. It's interesting to consider that these little guys are fairly defenseless and clumsy for several years before they're really able to take care of themselves.

At lunchtime we were hassled by the local monkey gangs, eager to steal whatever they could and to accept the discarded banana peels and passionfruit shells when they couldn't. They'll literally take the food out of your hands if they think you're not watching.

Orangutan feet are pretty awesome, almost just another hand. I'm definitely a bit jealous with my worthless toes.

This image illustrates the proximity we were able to experience as these orangutans swung right up to us and hung out while we literally reached out and touched them. Aurora is a city girl and had never experienced any sort of jungle before this day. This was definitely the experience of a lifetime for all of us.

I mentioned that all but one of the orangutans we saw were mellow. That one had built a reputation, attacking and biting something like 26 people over the last few years, tourists and guides alike. Our guide showed us a scar on his ankle that came from this particular orangutan, and explained that she has been known to hide behind large trees and wait for people to pass before jumping out and attacking them. We encountered her as we sat down for lunch, and the guides that were present quickly ushered us off down the trail while two of them stayed behind to appease her meanness, presumably with diplomatic discussions while sharing bananas? Unfortunately the guides' fears for our safety were nearly palpable, so we didn't stick around to take pictures.

This was a mother wandering with an adolescent child, which was playing with another young one who had evidently recently separated from its mother and gone out on its own. She swung circles and posed for us in the speckled sunlight.

Another mother and child approached us as we crossed a small creek, and simply sat in our way and stared at us for a good fifteen minutes of photo-clicking fervor.

At length we reached an established camp by the riverside, and enjoyed a few other experiences with local flora and fauna before sleeping on the hard packed clay and actually getting pretty cold all night. In the morning the guides constructed a raft from truck inner tubes, and we floated our way back downstream to Bukit Lawang, but not before a visit by a five-foot monitor lizard.

All these photos and a few others from Sumatra are in a gallery here:
John Borland


  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited March 29, 2014
    Indonesia has some of the world's best surfing. We know this because of the internet, not because we are surfers. With this in mind though, and having always wanted to surf, we set out to find the best place to learn. Unfortunately for us, it appears that most surf shops on Sumatra and the islands offshore expect you to already be a surfer on arrival, and offer neither lessons or gear rentals, and we were directed to Bali for our introduction to surfing. Bali was not really on our list this trip due to its extreme tourist nature, but since we wanted to try surfing, we decided to go, and a couple days later we landed on Kuta Beach and set out to learn.

    The first thing about Bali is its tourism. Our taxi driver who picked us up outside the airport was a local born and raised, and was frustrated by the loss of Balinese culture, giving us an unusually negative talk about various aspects of his island that have gone downhill in his lifetime. I asked him if there was anything uniquely Balinese that we should visit while we were here. His answer: "No."

    The beach we spent our time at was full of trash. The locals tell us this is a seasonal thing, and they're not actually sure what causes it. During this time of year, the beach fills with piles of all sorts of floating debris. Crews clean it up with rakes and shovels each morning, but it keeps coming and piling and lining the shores with garbage. While surfing, you literally swim in it, brushing aside candy wrappers and plastic bags as you paddle around. Other times of the year this trash isn't present. While the cause of this seasonal drift isn't exactly clear to me either, one thing is certain: Someone around here is throwing a lot of garbage into the ocean. I wish I could say in my travels through Asia that this was surprising to me, but it isn't.

    Learning to surf was pretty cool. There's a pretty good learning curve, but after an hour-long lesson and a couple hours in the waves over two days I definitely felt confident that I was improving.

    Most of the photos I shot while surfing are pure comedy....


    ... But we did have a good time learning to surf in spite of all the trash and tourism. I can't think of a reason I would ever go back to Bali, so hopefully I'll be able to exercise my new skills in cleaner waters elsewhere around the world.
    John Borland
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited March 29, 2014
    From Bali we left Indonesia and headed for Singapore. We learned a few days in advance that some friends that we met on the beach in Thailand last year were going to be hosting a highline event at a Singapore mall, and since the timing lined up pretty much perfectly, we arranged to attend. This is one of the areas that I am fairly frustrated at my lack of drive to photograph this trip. Singapore is a culturally rich city with an enormously interesting history to me. It's also a financially rich city with an enormously high cost of living. After wandering all over Little India, the backpacker-friendly part of town, we were only able to find a room at four times the price of anywhere else in Asia: a grey concrete box above a live band with a bunkbed, and with the only redeeming qualities being air-con and fast wifi. I'm a little ashamed to admit I was disgruntled enough that I queued up all the downloads that I had been refraining from downloading on my home internet, and tried to get at least a little bit of my money's worth that night. ne_nau.gif

    We loved Singapore though. The city is clean and modern and feels very safe. Our Singapore friends say that's only on the surface and don't speak highly of living there, but our experience was enjoyable nonetheless. We only wish we could afford to stay longer, but at a nightly rate that would add up to almost $3000 USD per month just for a room, quite frankly we couldn't.

    The highline event was a fun success. Quite a few slackliners attended, most of whom were living and working in Singapore. The urban cityscape provided an awesome backdrop for photos as brand new and more experienced highliners alike worked the lines over a section of a mall. I'll leave this section largely free of words as the photos sort of say it better anyway. :D






    Our travels through Singapore illustrate my frustrations with photographic drive this trip. We ate some new foods, experienced some new things, made a number of great new friends, and all I shot was the highlines. I apologize, I really wish you could experience things like eating durian for the first time with me, but unfortunately I have no photos of several days of adventure in Singapore. ne_nau.gif The best I've got is this shot of Tracy wandering through an art exhibit in a public park.
    John Borland
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited March 29, 2014
    If you thought Singapore was devoid of culturally illustrative photos and adventures from me though, let me show you Malaysia! rolleyes1.gifWe spent days traveling this country from tip to tip, stopping over in Malacca for two nights and seeing some interesting history. This country strikes me very negatively, and I'm not sure if that's entirely deserved or not. During hours upon hours of busing all I saw out the windows were palm oil plantations. It seems to me that quite literally the entire country has been sold out to these big business moneymakers, mostly foreigners we're told, and every bit of natural terrain has been stripped and replanted in rows of palm trees, with an occasional rubber tree forest thrown in for variety. They also have this thing where the whole country burns its fields and forests all at the same time, presumably to make room for fresh growth, but resulting in a smoggy haze that covers pretty much all of southeast Asia. Rumor has it that this is only a few weeks of the year, but I've never seen a clear day this trip, and I've heard it blamed on the Malaysians. I hope my perception is wrong, but after a few depressing days of uninspiring experiences, we headed north with hopes of reaching the Cameron Highlands, supposedly a pretty area. We made it to the busing hub, Kuala Lumpur, and after losing our spirit for this country and deciding to just beeline it for the beach in Tonsai instead, we spent a couple hours checking out the town before heading out.

    This is the only photo I shot in Malaysia.
    John Borland
  • FlyNavyFlyNavy Registered Users Posts: 1,350 Major grins
    edited March 30, 2014
    Wonderful photos and a great life you live! I want to be you!!
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited April 2, 2014
    Thanks FlyNavy! :D

    Unlike our usual style of traveling where we carry around fifty pounds of climbing gear in a backpack for several weeks, this trip we elected to NOT focus on climbing, and left the gear home. We knew that we would be stopping in Tonsai for at least a couple days, but we figured we could just rent gear for our climbing needs. I'm still a little on the fence about that, but we committed to it and went with it anyway. What it meant was that we showed up in Tonsai and did very much less climbing than we would normally have done, but we compensated for it with a few other adventures.

    What to say about Tonsai? Well I'm sure I've said it all before, but the whole peninsula that Tonsai Beach sits on is one of the most amazing places in the world. Towering limestone cliffs cut it off completely for overland travel, meaning that to get there one must hop a longtail from nearby Krabi or Ao Nang, and boat around the towers to reach one of four beaches. Tonsai Beach is almost entirely focused on climbers, with relatively cheap bungalows, tons of climbing, and several options for delicious local food. East and West Railay Beaches cater to a more high-dollar tourist with perhaps less of a focus on climbing and more on sunny beaches and tour packages. Phra Nang Beach is pretty much owned by one fancy resort, but the beach itself still has some fantastic swimming and scenery.

    We landed on Tonsai Beach and secured a bamboo bungalow with a bathroom and shower and a mosquito net over the bed, and not much else. Power is a luxury in Tonsai, and most residences only have it at night, which is okay because most people want to use the daytime hours to the fullest anyway, but it limits battery charging times some. Air-con is present in only two higher class places I'm aware of, and we never shell out the money for it. Sweltering heat beats us up a bit, but we compensate for it by drinking as many fruit smoothies as possible and not exerting ourselves much.

    You lose track of the days in Tonsai, because time doesn't really matter much. Day two or three or somewhere in there we set out on a Deep Water Soloing tour. We did this same trip last year, but it's awesome enough to repeat, and setting out from the beach we learned the names of our companions who were to become great friends over the next few days, and readied ourselves for some fantastic ropeless climbing.

    Deep Water Soloing, or DWS for short, is one of the simplest forms of climbing. The only gear outside the boat is a pair of shoes and optional chalk, and the only complications involved are finding an area with deep water and mastering the mental challenge of going higher. This challenge is one that's hard to overcome, however, and a lot of the climbing done in this style is low-level traverses and challenges that don't necessarily mean you have to get high. This also means the sport is open for anyone who wants to try, regardless of climbing experience or skill levels. Our friend Aurora who came with us this trip, on the right in this photo, is a self-professed hater of climbing, and yet here she is having the time of her life over the open ocean.

    The rock at this particular cliff yields challenges for every level of climber. The traverses vary in difficulty, and believe it or not there are several options of climbing through and out of this giant horizontal roof, ten meters or so over the surface of the ocean. Here our friend Maarten assesses the traverse at the base of a roof crack which I was able to successfully climb all the way past the lip a short while later.

    The freedom in climbing wherever you like with no rope to tie you down is pretty nice. Here Julian works his way into a crux sequence trying to get around the roof and into some higher ground.

    As the day moved on, a number of other boats showed up, also full of climbers. I assume the success and popularity of these tours has been noticed by other local shops who began offering tours of their own, exactly duplicating the successful ventures of the first DWS operators in the area. This is perfectly natural I guess, especially in Asia, but the lines forming at the base of the rock were a little annoying for paying customers, and the floating bodies in the fall zone were borderline dangerous at times. It's hard to tell the local Thais how to run a business though, so I guess it is what it is until someone gets crushed. ne_nau.gif

    Let's backtrack a moment. One of my goals for my 2014 self-portrait-a-week project was to attain a good shot while getting airborne from a great height over the ocean, and to that end I had planned on rigging a small Go-pro parachute and dragging it behind me on a jump. Simpler ideas prevailed though and I elected to go with a monopod instead, but upon digging in my gear I realized the tripod I brought on this trip didn't have a monopod. I asked around and posted on the local bulletin board, but figured I was on my own and set out to make one myself. A good solid jungle stick wasn't hard to find, and an hour of whittling it to perfectly fit the Gopro attachment and then lash it in place with parachute cord went smoothly. I also wrapped some grip tape around the handle to keep it firmly in hand, and as a final touch I added flotation in the form of an empty Gatorade bottle.

    This Gopro stick turned out to be enormously useful over the next few days. So useful that I carried it around pretty much every adventure we went on, which made for some excellent comic relief in the numerous strange looks people gave me as I walked by carrying a stick with trash tied to the end. It was hilarious. But back to DWS. My curiosity and a little greed led me to investigate the waters under the cliffs. Curiosity because naturally everyone would like to know exactly how deep that water is, and greed because I figure it highly probable there there's a number of Gopros and other valuable items strewn across the seabed in such a highly touristed area. :D I found the bottom at about five or six meters close to the cliff itself, but unfortunately it dropped away dramatically at that point and without fins I chickened out on going deeper, so my dreams of loot evaporated quickly.

    Lunchtime took us around the corner to a small cove where we gobbled up some fried rice and then did some snorkeling. The fish are plentiful and colorful, even in an area with a relatively bland seabed compared to some I've seen around here.

    I was able to locate an interesting jellyfish hanging out at the bottom in about three meters of clear water, and went in close for a portrait. I have no idea what kind this is, but the three-dimensional white dots above a deep blueish purple core were pretty cool to look at up close, and I don't think the Gopro really does it justice.

    After lunch we moved to a cliff with a few options for getting much higher with a fair amount of ease, and I brought my stick into play for the purpose it was designed for. Not wanting an entanglement and impact issue I designed this thing without a carrying strap, so I was forced to climb while holding it in one hand, but that proved to be fairly simple and I was able to attain about twenty meters or so to reach a good launching point for my photo jump. I set the camera to shoot 30 photos over three seconds, and after a good bit of pondering the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space, and struggling with the thin atmosphere up there, I finally triggered the shutter and launched. :D

    I guess it must not have been as high as it seemed, because while I was in the air for long enough to swing my arms around in wild circles about forty times, the camera was still within its three seconds and duly recording on impact. The force of impact when the trusty Gopro stick hit and followed me under was enough to straighten out the camera on its hinge and pull the stick, grip-tape and all, about six inches through my fingers, but everything held together admirably well, and I surfaced like a submarine with my gopro still raised in celebration above my head. This is the impact:

    I'm not exactly sure how many days went by, but sometime after our deep water soloing adventure we teamed up with Gary, a British gentleman who had a goal of rigging and walking a waterline at some point on his trip. A waterline is pretty simple, it's just a slackline over water, and since I was here last year and had a bit of an idea of a general area we could find some anchors to do this, we met up one morning and headed out. How hard could it be, right? All we had to do was walk over to Phra Nang Beach, rent a kayak, and paddle out until we found the anchors, and then it would be super simple to put the line up and walk it for a few hours.

    We made our preparations, and although we weren't able to find anyone else committed to the venture we set out for Phra Nang Beach, which is only about twenty minutes from Tonsai on foot. Arriving there we found that nobody rents kayaks on that beach, so we walked a short distance through a chasm of limestone to assess the possibilities of carrying gear over our heads and wading out to the rocks. No anchors were in sight from shore, so I swam out around a few boulders until I discovered them, and determined that we couldn't get this done without a boat. Tracy turned back and headed to West Railay to rent one while Gary and I continued assessing our plans.

    At length a couple passed by in a kayak and agreed to ferry our gear out to the rock for us while we swam. We loaded them down with our two packs and sandals and made the trip to the rock successfully, only to find that razor sharp barnacles attached to jagged overhanging limestone composed the entire outside edge of the boulder. The tide was coming in, but still had a good meter to rise before the overhanging lip came flush with it. A lap around the rock brought us to a low point where I was able to traverse an upward-trending lip of knife-like limestone until I could gently set my bare feet on a barnacle-laced ledge and get myself out of the water, and then step up onto solid rock above. This done I grabbed the bags from the friendly couple and assisted Gary on his ascent. After securely established on solid footing we assessed our injuries, which included numerous small slices oozing blood for both of us, on my toes and Gary's hands, but otherwise we seemed okay.

    We rigged one anchor for the line and once Tracy arrived with her kayak we stretched it across the gap and rigged the other, using the kayak as a step to bypass the death-spikes on this second ascent. Rigging complications delayed us a few more minutes while we stretched out from one side to position the tensioning system, but finally we had the line rigged, tensioned, and ready for a day of walking!

    As with deep water soloing, the appeal of waterlining is the soft impact and the mental game of not having ground underneath you to rely on. It's interesting to me how similar waterlining is to highlining, where the walker is attached by a leash to the line due to its height, and the exposure of walking over an open expanse on a thin 1-inch piece of nylon invokes a mental barrier that is enormously difficult to overcome and walk past. The same mental barrier seems to be present in waterlining, although to a lesser extent. A sit-start from a short distance out is required in order to escape the danger of the aforementioned really sharp rocks, but beyond that small difficulty it should just be like walking any other slackline, right? But it's not. Gary is a perfectly good slackliner capable of walking a variety of lines on the ground, but this line gave him some stiff challenges, throwing him off into the ocean again and again.

    We kept at it and had a blast, as the tide finally reached its apex and the sun beat down on us. We attached a pair of sandals to some rope, and to get back onto the rock we just held onto the tied-off tail end of the slackline, donned the sandals which we left floating in the water on their leashes, and scaled the barrier with near impunity and ease. The Gopro stick came into play again, and you can see the improvised fortress-scaling system behind me here, with the high tide exactly at the level of the lip of the terrible overhang that gave us so many problems a few hours earlier.

    At this point, aside from several painful back-flops from crazy tricks gone awry and a bit of a nasty debilitating twist to Gary's knee that left him limping for a couple days, events proceeded relatively without incident. We had a blast, and the Gopro stick was used to the fullest.



    When we packed up and headed home, Gary's knee injury led to him paddling the kayak and slackline gear back to Tonsai while Tracy and I walked. We met him there, returned the kayak to Railay with five minutes to spare on our rental time, and after showering we were still able to catch the last rays of sunlight on a 70-meter longline that one of the boatmen had rigged on the beach. Here's Gary, Tonsai Beach, West Railay Beach, and the last rays of a beautiful day.
    John Borland
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited April 2, 2014
    Again some unknown number of days later we were back at it for a second trip to the waterline. Gary was armed with a vengeance after being shut down on his hopes of a successful walk previously, and by this time we had accumulated a good sized group of friends through climbing and beach encounters who were also stoked to give it a shot. And now, armed with knowledge of how to get things done, it should be a cinch, right?


    We all made it to the rocks without trouble, renting three kayaks between us this time and with several people walking. Upon our arrival, however, we found that due to some wandering whim of the moon, our tides were much less optimal. Our previous ascent route was well above the surface of the water, and the level of the line itself was a full four meters and change. we puzzled over this for a bit, but we managed to gain the rock at least by standing on a kayak in the gently bobbing waves and reaching a handhold, and then making a lucky high step for the barnacle ledge with a sandaled foot. Gary and I made it safely and ferried gear, but at least one of us was bleeding before we got a few more people safely on the rock and ready to rig.

    Armed with our previous experiences Gary was able to work up some shortcuts in the rigging, but we needed someone to cross over and rig the line on the other side, so I volunteered for that. Ramona ferried me across in a kayak, but with the one-meter decrease in water level I was hard pressed to secure footing on the razor sharp rocks, especially from the inherently unstable surface of a kayak. I managed some handholds, and as the kayak slid out from under me and pressed my torso against the rocks I gently raised my right foot to find purchase on the barnacles. I felt I did a fairly decent job of this, with only one slight slip where the sandal snagged and didn't quite get all the way under my foot as I weighted it. I topped out and assessed myself to find a two-inch laceration along the outside of my big toe, which was already dripping blood down the rocks. Oh well, the line was across at least.

    I joined Mark, who had previously found another ascent from a kayak, and together we rigged the anchor. This event took about five minutes sort of half-sitting in a stance on the sloped rock face, and when it was done I looked down to find a rather gruesome blood trail from my foot running all the way down the rock face to the water, with little pools of bright red where the pointed limestone had formed pockets. One of these pools was at least the volume of a small kitchen glass, and was filled to overflowing. Honestly I was a bit surprised, generally the only place I see volumes of blood like that is working on the ambulance! I double checked my foot to be sure it was only a superficial cut, and it was only a clean slice just skin deep. I was impressed by how much it bled! eek7.gif

    This was only the start of the day's blood-letting. I dropped back in and crossed back to the other rock to find an infirmary already begun, with Ramona dressing a giant abrasion on her abdomen obtained while attempting the kayak-rock transition. Fortunately she was wearing a shirt over the contact point, but she still got a bad scrape! As I was stemming my own bloodflow with athletic tape, Mark and Luca both arrived at the emergency room fresh from the pier, Mark with some holes in one foot and Luca with several punctures oozing blood from both legs.

    At this point with the day just begun and the water so far below us, we decided it would be best to let the tide come in a little. We all headed to the beach, parked our kayaks, and walked to a restaurant where we were able to get some wifi and check tide tables while we had lunch. Turns out the tide was still going out, so we killed time for a couple hours through low tide, and then headed back out to the rock largely without incident.

    After that it was all fun and games! :D

    Here's Mark going airborne!

    Some of the group, hanging out as Luca tries the line.

    And the fall!

    Mark eyes the line in preparation for a sit-start.

    Gary moves into silhouette as the sun gets lower.

    Ramona takes a fall from a sit start, with no time to catch the line.

    And here's a few more falls, just for grins! :D



    We wrapped it up as the sun went down, all-in-all a fairly successful day! Dinner back at Tonsai was delicious with all our hard-earned injuries and exhaustion, and we slept well under our netting that night.
    John Borland
  • coldclimbcoldclimb Registered Users Posts: 1,169 Major grins
    edited April 2, 2014
    Leaving Tonsai is hard. It would be easy to just stay there until the very last moment, and then fly from Krabi to Bangkok to catch a flight home, or even to postpone that flight indefinitely and just stay on the beach, making your money last as long as possible. We would probably have done this too, but even with all the time Tracy and I have spent in Thailand we still had one item left on our list to go see: the ruins of Sukhothai.

    Sukhothai is attributed with being the beginning place of typical Thai architecture. It was the center of government of a civilization in its prime, and they built a number of towering mud-brick buildings and statues over centuries, which are largely still well preserved today. While we feel that this placed is not really comparable to the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it's still pretty cool to check out!

    We paid our way into the large central complex of temples and ruins and rode bicycles around, checking out the ancient architecture, giant Buddhas, and artistic waterways.

    Unfortunately I feel like I don't have a lot of good information to give with these photos. We didn't pay for the audio-tour and the place was distinctly lacking in any sort of posted information about most of the buildings and temples around, so I feel like all we got out of it is some cool imagery.

    Imagining the roofs that used to be held by some of these towering columns was pretty cool. I'm sure this place was fairly incredible in its day, and even now over half a millennium later it's still very impressive.

    There were a number of pigeons actively building nests is the decaying columns of this temple, so I waited for a while and managed to catch one coming in with a fresh twig.

    Layers of mud-brick stacked with mortar and covered in stucco seemed to make up most of the building material for the large columns, and smaller red bricks composed a lot of the other formations around. I was slightly surprised and impressed when looking into a hole excavated in one of the larger towers to see that it was entirely made of brick all the way through, and not simply a large amount of dirt shelled with a layer of them

    We spent only one day in Sukhothai, and then we ended this trip and headed home. Leaving our hostel in the morning we spent 50 hours traveling back across Thailand by bus, killing time in Bangkok, and then catching three flights and one last drive to our doorstep. Another trip to Asia behind us, and who knows if we'll ever be back? It's hard to say.
    John Borland
  • denisegoldbergdenisegoldberg Administrators Posts: 14,153 moderator
    edited April 2, 2014
    coldclimb wrote: »
    I love reading about your adventures. Your photos sharing your activities are amazing (and yes, enough to make me admit that I need to live these adventures only through you!).

    For your non-adventure photos, I really like the two in the quote above.

    --- Denise
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